|Douglas Commercial DC-3|
|The legendary Douglas DC-3 is the latest
restoration project by the Airline History Museum (AHM). This Douglas
DC-3-362, registration number NC1945, serial number 3294, was built in
Santa Monica, California, in February 1941. It was delivered to
Transcontinental and Western Airlines (TWA) at Kansas City, Missouri on
March 4, 1941.
About sixty percent of all DC-3 aircraft went to war in WWII as transports; this one did not. In fact, NC1945 is one of the very few existing DC-3s with the rare 24-passenger, 8-window configuration. Most remaining DC-3s are of the 21-passenger, 7-window configuration. This airplane flew with TWA as ship 386, from 1941 until 1952. In fact, some of our members logged hours in this plane as TWA crewmembers. It then spent 14 years with North Central Airlines. In 1968 it went into charter operations, and later was a travel club airplane with Coronado Airlines, in California.
The airplane ended its life as an electronic test bed in Torrance, California. It then sat in the desert west of Palmdale for a few years in storage, as part of an estate. The airplane was flown to Roswell, New Mexico in the mid-1980's for storage.
In 1993, AHM members became aware of it, and "old 386" was purchased from a Denver museum. A crew of AHM members made three trips down to Roswell to take the fuselage off the center section and put all of the various parts on trailers for the long highway trip to Kansas City, Missouri.
After locating work space that would hold the airplane, restoration work started. Striping paint from the fuselage was the first step in determining the condition of the outside fuselage skin. Removal of insulation from the inside of the fuselage skin showed the real problems that lay ahead. Corrosion had played havoc with the skin panels, former rings, stringers, and many other parts. Anybody in his or her right mind would have said, "it's not worth putting any more money into this airplane". However, being dedicated aircraft restoration enthusiasts, we started the project anyway!
The primary problem with the airframe was corrosion. This was caused by glue used on the cabin insulation. Old frames and parts were used as templates and patterns for the new ones. So, we were basically building a new airplane, from the inside out. We've replaced the majority of the exterior skin with new materials and fasteners. Old panels are dated, signed, and tacked to the hangar wall, which makes very nice hangar decorations, if you're wondering!
We are hoping for a restoration completion date sometime in 2004 or 2005. When completed, this will be one of the highest quality DC-3 restorations in existence - a true museum piece, but we plan to keep it flying!
Volunteers currently work on the DC-3 on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10am to 2pm at our hangar facility at the Kansas City Downtown Airport. We also have a DC-3 work day on the third Saturday of each month.
January 3, 2004
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